Photo by Chelsea Fisher
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My Trail Story featuring PCP

Chelsea Fisher, a.k.a. PCP ("Pretty Cool Person") shares her journey of becoming a thru-hiker from the AT to the Long Trail, and now on to hike the PCT in 2019.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       03/07/2019
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
03/07/2019

Giving The World My Time, As It Shares With Me Its Beauties

I became PCP (“Pretty Cool Person”) on my Appalachian Trail thru hike in 2017, and it stuck with me on the Long Trail in 2018. As I head for the Mexican border in April, I’ll find out if I will continue to be PCP.  “PCP on the PCT” is either as catchy as it gets or it’ll be confusing as ever.

Leading up to Thru Hiking

If there’s any room for want in this world, I want to go places. I didn’t always want that. My desire to travel and see the world didn’t develop until after college. I declined the typical post graduation strides and found myself living in Fiji for 8 months, diving with sharks and working with a conservation project. Aside from the new love of scuba diving, I also discovered the concept of backpacking. Since my time in Fiji, I have traveled New Zealand, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico and hope to visit many more countries in my lifetime.

A woman smiles next to a Long Trail sign.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher

During a span that I was at home working to save up funds for more travels, I had met a guy from a neighboring town that had just finished the CDT, the final hike of his Triple Crown! As I asked question after question, he was soon able to convince me that now was the time. The AT was a new adventure and a perfect opportunity for me to really test my love of hiking and the outdoors… all while giving the concept of backpacking a whole new meaning.

A hiker stands next to an Appalachian Trail sign
Photo by Chelsea Fisher

Preparing for the Appalachian Trail

I had about 2 months to prepare once I had made the final decision to hike the AT. I asked all the questions I thought I needed to and researched gear thoroughly. I met B Man at REI who set me up with a ride down to Georgia with Geek. Geek is well known for having hiked the AT in 1990 with his cat, Ziggy. Geek and B Man participate in trail magic at Gooch Gap every St. Patrick’s Day. I stayed with them and other trail angels, Herb and Kim, for a few days before heading to take part in their annual gathering. I felt extremely lucky to have been able to take part in the trail magic before even stepping foot on trail myself. I was devouring the information from the hikers as they came through Gooch Gap, only a few days in to their own thru hike. My previous solo travels prepared me for arriving at Amicalola, leaving me with few nerves as I got dropped off on March 19th, 2017.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

I had started the trail in a pair of Salomon shoes, a brand I was not familiar with. I am convinced that my arch had collapsed so quickly that my foot had widened leading to the blisters on the side of my foot. I was forced off trail for an entire week before the swelling went down and blisters healed enough for me to walk again.

I got back on trail with a pair of Altra Lone Peaks, trail runners that provided me with a wide enough toe box. I watched hikers with their tiny packs whiz by me and it didn’t take me long to realize that I was a walking REI manikin. I listened to them gloat about cutting ounces and became extremely curious about the ultra light backpacking brands that I had never even heard of. With over 30 lbs. on my back, I knew that I needed to make some adjustments.

Before long I ditched the Deuter pack and was carrying a Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Windrider, I swapped my REI Joule sleeping bag for Western Mountaineering, and I sent many unnecessary items home. I was on my way to being one of those tiny pack hikers. It was my big win at Trail Days in Damascus Virginia that solidified my journey to becoming as close to UL as possible. I won the HMG Echo II Shelter and said goodbye to my Big Agnes Fly Creek. I had cut enough pack weight that with food and water, my pack hovered around 20 lbs. for the remainder of the trail.

From start to finish it took me exactly 6 months to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. With nearly 60 zero days, I easily hiked big mile days but had no problem letting those days off rack up.

A hiker stands on a trail terminus with her arm in the air.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher
A hiking trail through grass and trees.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher
A close up of a horse nose.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher
A hiker stands on top of the Mount Katahdin trail sign.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher

Life After the Appalachian Trail

My experience after finishing the AT is similar to that of most. I was missing the people I had just spent 6 months of my life with and I had returned home to people who didn’t understand what those 6 months meant to me. I struggled finding work, which postponed any hopes for another hike or travels. Regardless of healthy eating and trying to maintain a work out routine, I immediately gained weight as my body and metabolism couldn’t adjust to the drastic change in calories burned and consumed. I was back in my to do list life where my days were no longer as simple as waking up and walking. Coming home after a thru hike is a hard adjustment to make.

Hiking the Long Trail

It was an entire year after completing the AT that I was finally able to set out for another thru hike. I started the Long Trail on October 1st, 2018 with high hopes of peak foliage. Little did I know that I would be given 19 days of miserable rain and snow. My time on the LT felt like putting all of my worst weather days of trail on the AT and hiking them one after the other.

I met a girl on the first day of the trail and we went all the way to Journey’s End together. Had it not been for her, I may not have actually completed the trail. The Long Trail was brutal but I have absolutely no regret for having hiked it.

Hikers sitting on a bench laughing.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher
A trail marking on a rock with an arrow pointing to the left.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher

Preparing for the Pacific Crest Trail

Because I already have gear that I used for the AT and LT I haven’t needed to make many gear purchases. As much as I would love to splurge and upgrade my gear, I know that it’s not necessary. The few purchases I have had to make are a bear can and microspikes for the Sierras. I also treated myself to an R1 Hoody and Houdini pants, my first ever pieces of Patagonia clothing.

I haven’t put much time or effort into any physical preparation either. My main priority is from a financial standpoint. The majority of my time is spent working and saving to build up my bank account.

A hiker lays out all of her hiking gear on the floor to display everything she's brining on her thru-hike.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher
A view of the clouds in the mountains with fall colored trees.
Photo by Chelsea Fisher

Plans after the Pacific Crest Trail

I don’t like to make plans. Plans are limiting. But I do have ideas and I have options. Of those endless possibilities, I could see myself doing a number of different things after the PCT. I could end up out west somewhere working at a ski resort for the winter season. I could travel internationally or quite possibly do an international trail. I could head to Indonesia to pursue my dive master and island hop for a while. I could even take up an entirely new hobby to devote my time to. Nothing is certain in life, but what I do know is that I’m going places. And right now those places include the steps between Mexico and Canada.


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Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the United States and attracts thousands of thru-hikers every year. Its narrow corridor stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, traversing 14 states and nearly 2200 miles (3540 km) on its way.

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Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
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A trail winds through a dense and lush green forest on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
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Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the United States and attracts thousands of thru-hikers every year. Its narrow corridor stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, traversing 14 states and nearly 2200 miles (3540 km) on its way.

2200 miles
$59.99 full guide
Explore the Trail
About the Author
A woman wearing a baseball cap and American flag tank top stands in front of a beautiful view.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people and places and nature, which might explain why she has almost 23,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things social media/marketing-related and might be seen frolicking around Flagstaff taking photos of the Arizona Trail.